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Cabeza de Vaca (1991)

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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 706 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 6 critic

A handful of survivors from a disastrous 1528 Spanish expedition to Florida journey across the coast until they reach Mexico.

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Title: Cabeza de Vaca (1991)

Cabeza de Vaca (1991) on IMDb 7/10

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Juan Diego ...
Cascabel / Araino
Carlos Castañón ...
Gerardo Villarreal ...
Roberto Cobo ...
Lozoya (as Roberto 'Calambres' Cobo)
José Flores ...
Eli 'Chupadera' Machuca ...
Farnesio de Bernal ...
Fray Suárez
Josefina Echánove ...
Anciana Avavar
Max Kerlow ...
Man in Armor
Óscar Yoldi ...
Ramón Barragán ...
Pánfilo de Narváez
Julio Solórzano Foppa ...
Javier Escobar Villarreal ...
Young Iguase Indian


An international award winning saga of old Mexico. In 1528, a Spanish expedition founders off the coast of Florida with 600 lives lost. One survivor, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, roams across the American continent searching for his Spanish comrades. Instead, he discovers the Iguase, an ancient Indian tribe. Over the next eight years, Cabeza de Vaca learns their mystical and mysterious culture, becoming a healer and a leader. But soon this New World collides with the Old World as Spanish conquistadors seek to enslave the Indians, and Cabeza de Vaca must confront his own people and his past. Written by Concorde - New Horizons (with permission).

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



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Release Date:

17 April 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cabeza de Vaca  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$789,127 (USA)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


The huge figure of a naked man wielding a club which is created by the Indian sorcerer is an accurate representation of the ancient Celtic chalk carving known as the Cerne Abbas Giant, which is 60 metres in height and is located on a hillside overlooking the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England. See more »


Featured in Conquistadors (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

"To know what it means to have nothing, you must have nothing."
20 April 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This dramatization of the true story of an odyssey that was as amazing in some respects as Homer's account of the voyage of Ulysses. The film puts the European invasion of the continent into more appropriate perspective, revealing the veil of lies about slavery and genocide that are common in histories of events in this place during this time. Although this film is politically compromised, it should be promoted to at least open the door on reality for those who don't know what this story is about.

Unfortunately, the result of this compromise is that most products of U.S. public education and other provincial audiences, who generally don't know the story of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and what he had to say, will miss the significance his "report" to the Spanish monarchy but it may inspire those who do see the film to examine Nuñez' account of his journey in relation to the vast ignorance, greed and stupidity of the Spanish monarchy and the hierarchy of the Catholic church to whom he addressed his comments when he wrote what turns out to be the only accurate portrait of indigenous people of this continent, in which he showed the "conquered" victims of the invasion.

Missed in this film is the greatest irony of ironies: that the church responded to Cabeza de Vaca's report to Isabella and Ferdinand & Co. by creditng the myth of the fountain of youth to reinterpret Cabeza de Vaca's statement about personal transformation and the humanity of the indigenous people. De Vaca's revelations exposed the hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic pretense that Christian idealism and not individual and collective greed motivated the conquest, the brutality, the slavery, the genocide. Ponce de Leon was sent out ostensibly to find the fountain of youth, while in the process, robbing, enslaving and killing indigenous people. Cabeza de Vaca died in poverty and is unknown to most students of the period.

A movie uses visual and aural spectacle, music and narrative to hypnotize viewers to tell a story, which means evoking experience and emotions associated with events, places and people. With movies, language, custom, commerce, politics and the attention span of viewers limit possibilities. From the perspective of indigenous North American people, this film is too compromised but it's a step in the right direction, which explains comparisons to Dances With Wolves.

After films are made, we may examine the ways films fail and we see why and this is valuable. In this film, the failure was not in execution but in the vision of the script. It conveys something important but does it leave out the part that makes it really relevant to our lives and contemporary practices that mirror the attitude of Isabella and the Vatican in the 16th century? Perhaps, it is better for a review to say nothing about this to avoid prejudicing viewers but the box office shows the opposite. It doesn't matter what we write in our reviews. You can't spoil a really good movie with a review.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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